Statement - Amid Coronavirus Threat U.S. Parole and Probation Officials Offer Urgent Recommendations for Safety, Mirroring Many Demands of Groups Across New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   

March 17, 2020                     

Contact: 

Yan Snead, ysnead@katalcenter.org | 518.360.1534

 

Amid Coronavirus Threat U.S. Parole and Probation Officials Offer Urgent Recommendations for Safety, Mirroring Many Demands of Groups Across New York

 

Community Groups Leading the #LessIsMoreNY Campaign Demand Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio Take Immediate Action to Protect the Health of New Yorkers Detained in Jails and Prisons

 

NEW YORK: This morning, a statement was released by more than 30 current and former probation and parole executives from across the country, as well as The National Association of Probation Executives, calling for immediate changes to correctional practices in order to limit the impact of the coronavirus across the U.S. The recommendations outlined by these correctional officials mirror many demands called for by community groups and advocates in New York to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and protect the health of communities.

Their recommendations include:

  • Immediately limiting office visits for people on parole and probation;
  • Suspending or severely limiting technical violations for the duration of the coronavirus crisis;
  • Reducing intake onto probation and parole to only those who absolutely need to be under supervision;
  • Reducing the terms of probation and parole to only as long as necessary to achieve the goals of supervision.

In response, community groups leading the #LessIsMoreNY campaign  Unchained (Syracuse), A Little Piece of Light (NYC), and Katal (NYC, Albany) – released the following statement:

"The recommendations issued today by parole and probation officials mirror those that have been issued by groups like ours and many others across New York, and we agree with those recommendations. Notably, if the legislature and Governor Cuomo immediately passed our #LessIsMoreNY bill, many of these recommendations would already now be practice or law. 

We demand that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio take immediate action to protect all New Yorkers. In addition to the recommendations issued today by correctional officials, to slow the spread of COVID-19 both in and out of jails and prisons and prevent the needless deaths of incarcerated people, we demand that New York State:

  • Immediately release anyone incarcerated in a New York State prison or a local jail for a technical parole violation;
  • Impose a moratorium on incarcerating people for new technical violations until the outbreak is contained;
  • Immediately release elderly people over the age of 55, because of the increased risk of death from COVID-19;
  • Immediately release medically fragile or people with compromised immune systems (i.e. people with HIV, Hep C, and other chronic conditions) due to their heightened susceptibility to complications and death from the virus;
  • Immediately limit the restrictiveness of electronic monitoring and house arrest to ensure that residents can move about to safely prepare for the pandemic;
  • Immediately stop the arrest and detainment of undocumented people in New York;
  • Publicly release its plan for dealing with COVID-19 in NYS prisons, disclose how many COVID-19 tests have been allotted to DOCCS, and require jails and prisons to check all for COVID-19 symptoms;
  • Provide free phone calls, free stamps, and free secure messages via electronic tablet to all people incarcerated in NYS prisons, so that they can maintain ties with their loved ones; 
  • Immediately suspend transfers of incarcerated people between NYS prisons (“the draft”) except in instances of medical necessity, and if transporting people do not shackle them together;
  • Promote wellbeing of all people incarcerated by providing them with extra soap and cleaning supplies, plastic gloves and face masks, allowing cell cleanup more than once per week, and disinfecting high touch surfaces multiple times daily - including phone areas.

These measures can be taken without risk to public safety and would in fact make communities across New York State safer, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic but long-term. We need public health responses to address this public health emergency, and getting vulnerable individuals out of jails and prisons is a necessary step to prevent the spread and impact of COVID-19. Releasing people is the smart and humane thing to do, especially in the midst of a pandemic.”

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About the Less is More NY Campaign:

The Less is More NY Campaign is a coalition of groups working to pass the Less is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act (S.1343B – Benjamin / A.5493A – Mosley), developed by people on parole, people currently incarcerated, family members, and groups across New York. Passing this bill would be an important step in the fight to end mass incarceration and mass supervision by restricting the use of incarceration in response to parole violations and promoting early discharge from community supervision. For more information visit: www.lessismoreny.org 


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